WRIC – CHESTER, Va. — It is the day Ethan Mordue has been dreaming about since coming home from Afghanistan in November 2013.
"Come here, Moto," he calls. "Come here Bubba."
The Pitbull-Labrador mix gallops towards Mordue. Finally, the reunion is happening.
Moto and eleven other bomb-sniffing dogs who served overseas are going to their forever homes after seventeen months of wondering and waiting in Mt. Hope Kennels in Chester. It was made possible by the United States War Dog Association and Mission K-9 Rescue.
"He was part of me for a year. It's like just having my other half back, you know?" Mordue squeezes Moto, who happily plays with an orange ball that had been his reward toy when he located an IED in Afghanistan. "He pretty much shared a room, shared a bed with me everything."
It is an emotional goodbye for Greg Meredith, owner and operator of Mt. Hope Kennels.
"They're veterans, they're soldiers, they're heroes, they protected us, they protected our freedoms," Meredith says of the dogs. "It's a happy day, but I'm going to miss them. I've spent the past year and a half of my life taking care of them."
Meredith says he was told the dogs would be there for a month when they were dropped off in February 2014. A private contract company was supposed to train them for another mission. That never happened, and Meredith says he spent $150,000 to care for them.
"I would do it again and sacrifice for them," Meredith says.
Half of the dogs are now available for adoption, while the others are going home with their former handlers, or in one case, the family of a former handler who passed away.
"They have two small children, and that's their last connection with their dad," Meredith explains.
As for Moto, he can look forward to new beginnings.
"You're gonna get to meet the family today too, aren't ya buddy?" Mordue hugs and kisses the dog.
Moto is going to his new home in Stuart, Virginia with an old friend from the front lines.
"I'm just going to let him take it easy and retire out and just be happy like he deserves. He put in his time," Mordue says.